Woman with fitness band on wrist atop mountain

The Best Fitness Trackers of 2021

By Austin Meadows AccessoriesNo Comments

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Fitness is a worthy pursuit that can improve nearly every aspect of our lives. There’s no magic product that will do the exercise for us, but a good tracker at least helps us gather data and provide much-needed motivation to keep pushing forward.

The best fitness trackers include features like heart rate monitoring, step counting, and activity tracking across a variety of exercises. More advanced models offer on-board GPS tracking, music storage, and more, so you can leave your phone at home on long runs. 

Fitness trackers come in a few different shapes and sizes, from minimalist bands to sophisticated (and bulky!) GPS running watches. Smartwatches, too, offer some basic fitness tracking capabilities, although they’re rarely as fully-featured as the dedicated versions. 

When shopping for a fitness tracker, the biggest factors to keep in mind are features, cost, and style. Battery life is also important: basic fitness trackers can last a week or more in between charges, while smartwatches and trackers with GPS features may need to be charged every day or two. 

With dozens of competing models available, finding the perfect product can feel intimidating, which is why we’ve spent plenty of time tracking down the best of them. From basic budget-friendly models to powerful multi-sport fitness watches, these are the top fitness trackers of 2021. 

Best Overall: Fitbit Charge 5
  • Weight: 1.02 oz (29g)
  • Screen size: 0.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Battery life (standard use): Up to 7 days
  • Onboard GPS?: Yes
  • Water resistance: 50m

Best Budget Fitness Tracker: Xiaomi Mi Band 6
  • Weight: 0.45 oz (13g)
  • Screen size: 1.6 inches
  • Battery life (standard use): Up to 14 days
  • Onboard GPS?: No
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM

Best Fitness Tracker for Women: FitBit Versa 3
  • Screen size:1.6 inches
  • Battery life (standard use): Up to 6 days
  • Onboard GPS?: Yes
  • Water resistance: 50m

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Best Fitness Tracker with GPS: Garmin Vivoactive 4
  • Weight: 1.8 oz (51g)
  • Screen size: 1.3 inches
  • Battery life (standard use): Up to 8 days
  • Onboard GPS?: Yes
  • Water resistance: 50m

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Best Fitness Tracker with Oxygen Monitor: Garmin Vivosmart 4
  • Weight: 0.64 oz (18g)
  • Screen size: 0.75 inches
  • Battery life (standard use): Up to 7 days
  • Onboard GPS?: No
  • Water resistance: 50m

Best Smartwatch Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Sense
  • Screen size: 1.58 inches
  • Battery life (standard use): Up to 6 days
  • Onboard GPS?: Yes
  • Water resistance: 50m

Best Overall: Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Charge 5 Advanced Fitness & Health Tracker with Built-in GPS, Stress Management Tools, Sleep Tracking, 24/7 Heart Rate and More, Black/Graphite, One Size (S &L Bands Included)

Fitbit is a market leader in fitness trackers, and happens to be one of our favorite brands in the industry. The company made a name for itself by producing affordable, easy to use trackers designed to meet the needs of everyone working towards a more active lifestyle. 

The Fitbit Charge 5 is the latest in its popular mid-range Charge product line, and the best choice for most fitness enthusiasts. While the Fitbit Sense (below) has more features, it’s also noticeably larger and more expensive: we think the Charge 5 is a better all-round option.

The Charge 5 has all the features most people are looking for in a fitness tracker. It can track all the basics, like step count, sleep quality, and heart rate, and has onboard GPS. There’s also Fitbit Pay, which works with a vast array of banks around the world so you can leave your wallet at home and still pick up coffee after your run.

The tracker also has an SpO2 pulse oximeter for better sleep tracking, along with an Electrodermal Activity (EDA) sensor that helps measure your stress levels. That’s a new addition in this model, and a welcome one given the events of the last couple of years.

Active Zone Minutes encourages users to spend more time at elevated heart rate levels, suggesting custom goals based on the recommendations of several health associations, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Like all Fitbits, the Charge 5 is exceptionally easy to use, and its clean, simple interface is intuitive even for new users. It syncs with the popular Fitbit app, which gives users an easy way to monitor all their stats. 

The slim, stylish design of this tracker makes it a very versatile option. It weighs almost nothing, so you’ll barely notice it on your wrist, and is water-resistant for trips to the lake or laps in the pool. 

Battery life on this model is solid as well, at around seven days of regular use. Enable GPS, always-on display, and heart rate monitoring, however, and you can expect that to drop down to a day or two.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is a great all-around fitness tracker. With that said, its moderate price point and basic functionality mean that it simply can’t compete on features with higher-end trackers.

For example, while it has GPS functionality, the tracking and mapping isn’t as accurate as more advanced models, and the interface lacks many of the customization options offered by more expensive fitness trackers. 

For its target market, however, those are minor drawbacks rather than show stoppers. On balance, Fitbit gets almost everything right with the Charge 5 at a reasonable price, which is why it’s our overall top fitness tracker pick right now.

Pros
  • Advanced features for the price
  • Good battery life
  • Onboard GPS
  • Excellent app
  • Fitbit Pay for contactless payments
Cons
  • Short battery life when GPS is enabled
  • Interface isn’t customizable
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Fitness Tracker: Xiaomi Mi Band 6

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 - 1.56'' AMOLED Touch Screen, SPO2, Sleep Breathing Tracking, 5ATM Water Resistant, 14 Days Battery Life, 30 Sports Mode, Fitness, Steps, Sleep, Heart Rate Monitor [Official UK]

Xiaomi is a Chinese electronics manufacturer known for producing exceptionally affordable products. The Xiaomi Mi Band 6 is its latest health tracking device, and our pick for the best budget-friendly fitness tracker. 

The Mi Band 6 packs a surprising number of features into a very affordable package. It has heart rate tracking (that works quite well), as well as sleep quality monitoring. It can track your steps, and provide detailed stats on 11 different activities, including running, cycling, and swimming. SpO2 blood oxygen tracking is also built in.

There’s no onboard GPS, with the Mi Band using the location tracking features of your phone to measure distance, and adding that data into the heart rate and other stats from the band itself. If you typically exercise with your phone on you, the lack of built-in GPS shouldn’t be an issue.

This little device has exceptional battery life, with up to 14 days of standard use. A full color screen displays all the relevant information, and data can sync with the Mi Fit app, as well as select third-party apps like Google Fit.

The Mi Band 5 is certainly not the most advanced tracker on the market, but for the price, it’s an excellent basic option. 

Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Slim, stylish design
  • Full-color screen
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • No onboard GPS
  • Tracking for some activities is less accurate than it could be
Buy on Amazon

Best Fitness Tracker for Women: FitBit Versa 3

Fitbit Versa 3 Health & Fitness Smartwatch with GPS, 24/7 Heart Rate, Alexa Built-in, 6+ Days Battery, Pink/Gold, One Size (S & L Bands Included)

Fitbit offers several different models, each with its own unique features and selling points. The Versa 3 is Fitbit’s answer to the smartwatch market, offering many of the features you’d find in high-end models like the Apple Watch at a substantially lower price. 

The Versa 3 is half smartwatch, half fitness tracker. The intuitive interface lets you monitor exercise activity, track sleep quality, see notifications, control Spotify, and much more, and has more accurate health tracking than many smartwatches. 

This watch has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built in for easy voice control, and an impressive battery life of up to six days that means you can power through your work week before needing a charge. You get SpO2 blood oxygen tracking, as well as VO2 max and heart rate monitoring.

GPS is new in this model, letting you leave your phone at home when you’re out for a run. Turning it on has a noticeable effect on battery life, but that’s hardly unique to this particular device.

A simple, stylish design makes this a versatile everyday wear. Available in a small range of colors, there’s also a wide variety of band options that let you customize the look of the Versa 3 to suit your particular style. The Versa 3 comes with both small and large bands, and its lightweight design fits well on many women’s wrists.

The Versa 3 is a great fitness tracker. The downside? It’s an average smartwatch. If you’re looking for powerful smartwatch productivity features, look elsewhere. If you want an accurate fitness tracker with some basic smartwatch functionality, however, this is an excellent choice.

Note: the Versa 3 is a little larger than its predecessor, so if you’ve got particularly small wrists or just want to save a bit of money, take a look at the Versa 2 as well. You’ll miss out on GPS tracking, voice assistance, and a few other features, but the size and money savings may make that a worthwhile tradeoff.

Pros
  • Accurate fitness tracking
  • Sleep quality monitoring
  • Week-long battery life
  • GPS
  • Clean, simple design
Cons
  • Smartwatch functionality is lacking
  • Minimal screen customization
Buy on Amazon

Best Fitness Tracker with GPS: Garmin Vivoactive 4

Garmin Vivoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts, Pulse Ox Sensors and More, Black

Garmin is an American electronics company that offers many higher-end activity trackers. The Vivoactive 4 is one of its latest models, and includes powerful fitness tracking tools. 

The Vivoactive is designed for runners, outdoor athletes, and dedicated fitness enthusiasts. The onboard GPS accurately tracks your activities, while animated workouts can be displayed directly on the screen. 

This is a fitness watch that lets you leave your phone at home while exercising. Not only does it have that onboard GPS, it also includes built-in music storage, and you can easily download your playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer for on-the-go listening. It can even broadcast your location to emergency contacts, should you get injured out on the trails. 

In addition to fitness tracking, the Vivoactive 4 offers insights into breathing, sleep, stress, and more. It’s designed to be an easy way to monitor your overall health and wellbeing. 

This watch offers many of the features of Garmin’s advanced running watches without the hefty price tag. It looks stylish, with two different sizes and thousands of customizable watch faces, and at just 1.8 ounces (50.5 grams), it isn’t too bulky. 

Battery life is also impressive, with up to eight days of standard use. GPS and music streaming are far more battery-intensive, though, dropping your time between charges to six hours or less of continuous use.

Pros
  • Built-in music storage
  • Accurate GPS tracking
  • Available in two face sizes
  • On-screen animated workouts
Cons
  • Onboard music storage requires streaming service subscription
  • Higher price point
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Fitness Tracker with Oxygen Monitor: Garmin Vivosmart 4 

Garmin Vivosmart 4, Activity and Fitness Tracker w/ Pulse Ox and Heart Rate Monitor, Black

Garmin offers a variety of fitness trackers, the majority of which are advanced watch-style devices. The Vivosmart 4 bucks this trend, as it’s one of their simpler, slimmer models. 

The Vivosmart 4 has one feature that’s relatively rare in this price range: a blood oxygen saturation monitor. A gauge of how well your body is absorbing oxygen, it’s particularly useful for analyzing sleep quality, but can also be checked any time to gauge exercise recovery and overall health.

Body Battery is another feature unique to the Vivosmart 4. The device uses a combination of activity data, sleep quality, heart rate variability, and stress to assign a “body battery” score. This is essentially a measure of how much energy the device thinks you have at any given time. 

This tracker has a small, minimalist display. When paired with the Garmin app, though, it offers powerful tracking tools‒not just for fitness, but for sleep quality and overall health. 

While the oxygen monitor is an interesting feature, keep in mind that it can be inaccurate. Blood oxygen levels are difficult to monitor with non-dedicated devices, particularly with budget trackers like the Vivosmart 4 or Xiaomi Mi Band 6 (above). They aren’t FDA-approved for this purpose, so treat the measurements with some caution.

Additionally, some people find the band on the Vivosmart 4 to be somewhat uncomfortable to sleep in, which reduces the value of the advanced sleep tracking features. 

Pros
  • Garmin’s slimmest fitness tracker
  • Blood oxygen saturation tracking
  • Advanced sleep tracking
  • Unique Body Battery feature
  • Up to seven day battery life
Cons
  • Pulse oxygen tracking can be inaccurate
  • Can be uncomfortable to sleep with
Buy on Amazon

Best Smartwatch Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Sense

Fitbit Sense Advanced Smartwatch with Tools for Heart Health, Stress Management & Skin Temperature Trends, Carbon/Graphite, One Size (S & L Bands Included)

Picking the “best” smartwatch is controversial. iOS fans will tell you the Apple Watch reigns supreme, while Android fans typically prefer the Galaxy Watch. When it comes to fitness tracking smartwatches, though, it’s best to stick with the industry leader: Fitbit. 

The Fitbit Sense is a fitness tracker first, and a smartwatch second. By this, we mean that the Fitbit prioritizes advanced fitness tracking, while still offering solid smartwatch features. 

Advanced tracking features make this watch stand out from the competition. In addition to all the standard metrics, the Sense also tracks blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, and electrodermal activity, which Fitbit uses to gauge stress levels in the body. Combined with Fitbit’s accurate fitness tracking, this results in an excellent picture of your overall health, activity, and recovery. 

As a smartwatch, the Sense has many features that are, well, smart! It supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice-activated operation. Mobile payments are possible via Fitbit Pay, and it pairs seamlessly with your phone, allowing for hands-free calling, music control, and more. 

Last but not least, the Sense has exceptional battery life for its product category. It can easily last 6+ days between charges, or up to 12 hours with continuous GPS use. 

The drawbacks of this model include a lack of customization options, and relatively basic functionality by true smartwatch standards. Additionally, some of the best analytical features of the watch work best when paired with Fitbit Premium, which is an optional paid subscription. 

Pros
  • Accurate activity tracking
  • Advanced metrics like skin temperature
  • Built-in GPS
  • Excellent battery life
  • Smartwatch features
Cons
  • Fewer customization options than many smartwatches
  • Some features require the paid Fitbit Premium service
Buy on Amazon

Main image via Charlotte Karlsen, product images via Amazon

About the Author
Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows

Austin is a digital nomad with a passion for exploring alternative lifestyles and testing the latest technological innovations. Rarely under the same roof for long, when he's not sampling wine and cheese in Bulgaria or downloading the latest travel app, you can find him running, gaming, or cooking up something delicious.

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